Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dr. Richard Shane


The beef industry in South Dakota is an important component of the state's agricultural economy. South Dakota beef producers market approximately 2.0 million head of cattle and calves annually with value in excess of 1.2 billion dollars in 1984. This revenue represents over 60 percent of total livestock receipts for the state and over 35 percent of total agricultural sales. In 1985, South Dakota cattle gross income was over $1,336 million. The significance of South Dakota cattle production is further demonstrated by a national ranking of fifth in beef cows that calved and ninth in total production of cattle and calves in 1985. Cattle numbers are declining both on a national and state level, declining from a national total of 114.4 million head at the end of 1980 to 105.5 million head at the end of 1985. South Dakota cattle numbers declined from 4.1 million head to 3.6 million head over the same five year period. Consumption of beef per capita has held fairly constant since 1978 at 77-80 retail pounds and is presently around 77 pounds per capita. Even with the declining numbers of cattle and consumption remaining constant, price has not increased enough to stop the reduction phase of the present cycle. In fiscal year 1985, 1,499,489 head of cattle were shipped out of South Dakota with only 477,167 head of cattle coming in, leaving a net out flow of 1,022,322 head. State inventories were down slightly. This leaves the South Dakota cattle producer dependent on out-of-state cattle demands to absorb the net flow of cattle out of South Dakota. The total number of packing plants in the United States decreased from a peak in 1976 of 6,255 plants to 5,558 at the end of 1983. Average plant size is increasing, reflecting closings of small plants through the last decade. U.S. beef slaughter is shifting west and south. The West North Central and Southern Plains regions reported a 12 percent increase in the proportion of cattle slaughtered there between 1972 and 1982. This indicates a shirt in slaughter away from plants located near large urban areas in East North Central and Eastern regions of the nation to plants located close to cattle production areas. This shift in slaughter plant location parallels the westward movement of cattle feeding. Today, plants are increasing the production of boxed beef and decreasing the production of whole carcass beef. Processing beef into boxed beef increased from 44 percent to 58 percent of all steer and heifer slaughter between 1979 and 1982. This study was conducted to update existing information on the South Dakota cattle industry at the producer, feeder, slaughter, and processor levels and to examine construction and operating costs of South Dakota beef slaughter plants.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Beef industry -- South Dakota

Beef industry -- Economic aspects - South Dakota

South Dakota State University Theses



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University